Licensed properties and video games have had a rocky relationship, to say the least. More often than not, a popular franchise that seems destined to make a splash in the world of video games usually ends up belly-flopping headfirst into the concrete.
Although a majority of them are not worth anyone’s time, there are a few that not only break through the negative stigma of licensed games, but also manage to stand on their own as incredible experiences in their own right.
Here are 10 of the best licensed games of all time.
No list aggregating the best licensed games of all time is complete without the inclusion of Goldeneye 007.
Launching back in August 1997 for the Nintendo 64, the game was based on the James Bond movie of the same name that released two years prior.
Goldeneye 007 was not only a significant title for the console, but it helped change the gaming landscape for first-person shooter games on a console as well.
A genre that was once looked at as being for PC only by some gamers at the time, Goldeneye 007 helped shake that perception by providing a revolutionary control scheme, making it easy to aim, shoot, and run using a console controller.
Goldeneye 007 wasn’t only a critical success, but it was a commercial success as well, selling over 8 million copies and earning itself a spot at number three on the best selling Nintendo 64 games of all time.
What is the most important aspect that a Spiderman game must have in order to be great? The answer is simple, it’s the traversal.
Lucky for developer Insomniac Games, Spiderman on PS4 absolutely nailed the movement, giving players the web-swinging free-roam movement of their dreams.
Not only did the game nail the traversal, but the combat expands on the hand-to-hand fighting that games like the Batman Arkham series popularized a few years prior.
Using Spiderman’s array of abilities and web spitting gadgets, combat stays interesting and engaging from start to finish. You take on bosses that are classic staples in the Spiderman universe such as Doctor Octopus, Kingpin, and Rhino.
Although Spiderman has had plenty of games in the past, none quite hit the mark that this iteration from Insomniac Games did. Some would even label this game as the best superhero game of all time.
With the recent news that Sony has purchased Insomniac Games, we can safely assume that even more Spiderman games are coming out of the studio in the near future, and we can’t wait.
Injustice: Gods Among Us
Injustice: Gods Among Us is a fighting game franchise based on superheroes from the DC universe. It was met with a fantastic reception from fans and critics alike when it initially launched in 2013.
Netherrealm Studios is known for its brutal and gory fighting game series, Mortal Kombat. With the release of MK9, the studio revolutionized storytelling in fighting games, leaving other developers in the genre to strive for the same level of excellence.
Injustice and its sequel, Injustice 2, both deliver on an amazing story using popular superheroes that fans have grown up with over the years. The use of the license is top-notch and allows people to live out the “who would win” scenarios that fans have debated tirelessly over the decades.
Injustice set itself apart by not just being a clone of Mortal Kombat with a DC aesthetic, and instead, NetherRealm Studios implemented unique gameplay mechanics to give the game its own identity.
The game sold incredibly well, becoming the number one selling game during the month it released, establishing itself as not only a game for comic book fans, but enjoyable for fighting game fans as well.
Ghostbusters: The Video Game
Ghostbuster fandom has been clamoring for Ghostbusters 3 ever since the second movie left fans hanging back in 1989. As time passed, it seemed as though fans would never get to experience the third movie, that is, until Ghostbusters: The Video Game released in 2009.
What at first looked like a typical cash grab using a popular license, Ghostbusters: The Video Game instead made headlines for not only being a great game, but also taking on the honorary role of being the defacto Ghostbusters 3 film that fans have been waiting for.
The game takes place in 1991, a few short years after the events of Ghostbusters 2. You take on the role of the newest member joining the Ghostbusting squad, aptly named Rookie, testing out all of Egon’s latest gadgets and modifications to help bust up some ghosts.
What really makes this game a fantastic use of the license is the fact that all four of the actors from the film reprised their roles to do the voice acting for their characters. Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, and Dan Aykroyd all lend their talents to the game, making it feel like a true sequel to Ghostbusters 2.
The game is a true love letter to fans of the Ghostbusters franchise, while also remaining a competent video game as well. Many games in the past have attempted to capture the thrill of ghost busting, but none of them have ever come close to the excellency of Ghostbusters: The Video Game.
For anyone who missed this game when it launched nearly 10 years ago, you can check out the remastered version coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC on October 2019.
The NES era had a plethora of licensed video games that consistently failed to live up to the franchise they were based on. Oftentimes, licenses were crammed into existing games to help attract fans of the franchise to purchase a game that otherwise may have gone unnoticed.
However, the Capcom-developed Ducktales game broke apart from that norm, making it one of the few standouts amongst a sea of terrible licensed games from that time period.
Ducktales took the popular kids cartoon based on the same name and melded it into gameplay reminiscent of greats like Mega Man and Super Mario.
Using Scrooge McDuck’s cane, you can bounce on the enemy’s heads to eliminate them similar to Mario jumping on the heads of his enemies. You could also use the cane to traverse through the various levels as you attempt to take down each boss at the end of each world.
Many licensed games from the Ducktales era are what helped create the negative stigma surrounding video games using TV and movie licenses. Too often were licenses used as gateways for unsuspecting fans to purchase a badly developed video game.
Ducktales, however, stands alone on its own as a great game even without the license. The movement and combat are snappy, easy to control, and most importantly, Ducktales is just fun to play.
Kingdom Hearts 3
Back in 2013, fans got their first look at the world of Kingdom Hearts 3. Little did fans know that they would have to wait over half a decade before they finally got their hands on Sora in this brave new world in 2019.
Fortunately for fans of the franchise, their patience paid off as Kingdom Hearts 3 became one of the best licensed games of all time.
Kingdom Hearts has always found a way to beautifully blend the worlds that Disney has created into the interactive medium of video games.
Although the story did not quite hit the mark that some fans were expecting after such a long wait, the worlds and gameplay that Square Enix were able to create was nothing short of breathtaking.
The gorgeous worlds that Sora gets to explore are the perfect amalgamation of video games and Disney licenses. Each world you explore feels meticulously hand-crafted and packed with surprises that excite even the biggest fans.
Kingdom Hearts as a franchise remains a shining example of how to properly use a license when it comes to video games.
Dragonball as a franchise has found a home on multiple consoles over the years, including the NES.
Although some of those games in the past are beloved by fans of the series such as the Budokai and Xenoverse games, none of them quite hit the same authenticity that Dragonball FigherZ did.
Dragonball FighterZ took the hand-drawn animation from the TV show and perfectly transformed it into a 2D Fighting game, making it one of the best licensed games of all time.
Not only was it just a great game, but it was celebrated and championed by the fighting game community, gaining nearly 2,500 entrants during EVO 2018, outpacing the number of entries for games like Street Fighter V and Tekken 7.
The game’s implementation of easy combos mixed with deeper mechanics for those who are more skilled made the game accessible for everyone of all skill levels.
The on-screen battles that take place between you and your opponent can easily be mistaken for an episode of the TV show, making it one of the most authentic recreations of a license that we have on our list.
Batman Arkham City
Although it may seem like an easy franchise to bring to the world of games, Batman has failed multiple times in his attempt to make the leap to interactive media.
It wasn’t until 2009 when Batman Arkham Asylum hit store shelves that fans finally saw what a good Batman game could be. It introduced the world to the hand-to-hand combo-based combat that many games after it have attempted to emulate.
However, the full scope of the Batman license was never fully realized in Arkham Asylum as Batman was confined to the prison meant for the mentally deranged villains that he has put behind bars over the years.
Batman Arkham City took the great aspects of the Aslyum game and amplified it. Batman was given an open world, the ability to fly across Gotham, and even more gadgets to take down his foes.
Batman Arkham City is one of the best licensed games of all time due to its fantastic story, engaging combat, and authentic recreation of the world of Gotham.
The game delivered on the idea of a Batman video game to fans all over the world who have been waiting for someone to treat the property with the love and respect it deserves.
Simpsons Hit and Run
Other than the Simpsons Arcade game, the world of Springfield has never quite made the video game debut that fans of the series had hoped for.
It wasn’t until Simpsons Hit and Run came along that it gave fans a fully realized world that combined the quick wit and humor that the show was known for with video games.
Simpsons Hit and Run took heavy inspiration from unlikely games like Grand Theft Auto, giving players a giant open world to explore and missions given to you from various characters from the show.
While you can’t exactly pick up a hooker or kill a bystander, you can get out of your car and kick random pedestrians, giving you a more PG version of the hijinks players get into in GTA.
The game gave fans of the Simpsons franchise a Springfield that they can explore and live in, filled with their favorite characters, and most importantly, nailing the hilarious nature of the TV show.
Simpsons Hit and Run is one of the best licensed games of all time due to its faithful recreation of the show’s comedic timing, colorful world, and memorable characters.
Telltale’s The Walking Dead
When the television series The Walking Dead debuted on AMC back in 2010, video game fans all over the world wondered when the series would make its way to their consoles.
However, most of them probably didn’t envision the emotional effect that Telltale’s The Walking Dead would have on them as they played out the final moments of the last chapter.
Telltale’s The Walking Dead told an emotional story between Lee and Clementine as they attempt to escape the hordes of walkers that constantly attack them.
The game takes you on an emotional rollercoaster as you develop bonds with the various supporting characters and make huge decisions that not only impact the story, but impact the character’s lives in major ways.
What makes this one of the best licensed games of all time is its ability to take the sentimental storytelling from the TV show and implement it into the medium of video games, something that is rarely done well, even for AAA titles.
If you have never played The Walking Dead, grab a box of tissues and check out the game on the multiple different platforms it is available on as it is absolutely worth your time.